ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Gateway Arch. It was one of those moments St. Louisans remember where they were when it happened.
A young reporter, new to St. Louis, certainly remembers where he was.
“I moved here from Minneapolis in the summer of ‘65 and I didn’t know much about the Arch. But I learned pretty quick it was a big, big, story,” said retired Fox 2 News anchor and St. Louis TV news legend Dick Ford.
Dick was on the ground reporting live when the final piece of the Arch was put into place. He landed an interview with Rep. Leonor K. Sullivan, Missouri’s first female member of Congress.
The street beneath the Arch now bears her name. Back then, people weren’t so sure about her and that Arch, Ford said.
“A lot of people thought that even that day,” he said. “There was some dark humor, the idea was that the cranes would pull the two legs apart and you insert the piece – ‘What if it snaps off?’ Of course that was impossible. There were jokes about that and ‘What if you drop the piece?’ ‘What if it doesn’t stay in there?’”
A couple of years later, the tram rides to the interior windows at the top began. The skepticism faded.
“One year there were more people who went up to the top of the Arch than went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris,” he said.
In those early years, he also reported standing on the very top, gaining a new appreciation for the freestanding marvel of engineering and the promise it still holds, that you don’t see looking up.
“[The outer surface at the top is] only 16-feet wide. And we’re walking and it does sway. And we’re doing this interview with this guy on top of the Arch; no tether, no life-line, no nothing. I think, ‘What the heck was I doing up there?’ [But] like we have said, it’s still not finished. It’s still not really complete the way they want it to be. But yeah, it is St. Louis.”
There were maybe a few thousand spectators to see the final piece put in, he said. They couldn't get too close because it was a massive construction zone. Most of the accolades went to the workers who completed the amazing task with a virtually spotless safety record.